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Sugar importation raises questions, protests


The Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED) yesterday issued a statement raising serious concerns, including the drop in sugar mill gate prices, on the issuance of Sugar Order (SO) No. 6 titled “2nd Import Program for Crop Year 2022-2023,” issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

In a statement, CONFED said the sugar order allows the importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar, with the first shipment of 200,000 MT to arrive before April 1, and the balance of 240,000 scheduled to arrive April 1 onwards, which will serve as buffer stock.

“The 440,000 MT is higher than the 350,000 MT recommended by CONFED and is scheduled for arrival earlier than proposed. It may have a negative effect on current mill gate prices since milling is still on-going,” CONFED president Aurelio Valderrama Jr. said.

It may have a negative effect on current mill gate prices since milling is still on-going, Valderrama, further said in an open letter.

In an interview with RMN DYHB, former SRA board member-turned 5th District Rep. Emilio “Dino” Yulo described the sugar importation as “wrong timing.”

Yulo also said that the sugar importation should be delayed.

CONFED also raised its fears in the emasculation of SRA’s regulatory powers, as SO 6 appears to strip SRA of the authority to approve import applications and allocate sugar importation volumes to eligible traders.

“Under Section 5, DA has final discretionary authority to approve import applications. This is the first time such a condition is provided. This could constitute excessive discretionary power granted to the Department of Agriculture and a possible circumvention of the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA),” CONFED pointed out.

The planters federation also noted that there is no provision in Sugar Order No. 6 that ensures transparency in the granting of import permits, leaving the door open for abuse in awarding import permits to favored traders only.

“There is no formula that establishes the volume that any particular applicant may apply for. Again, this allows for too much discretionary power in the hands of DA (not SRA, which is left with only recommendatory authority under Sec.5 of S.O. No. 6, 22-23),” the group emphasized.

CONFED cited that, in contrast to Sugar Order No. 6, Sugar Order No. 2 of Crop Year 2022-2023, particularly Section 5 thereof, has a specific provision for volume per eligible importer, which is pro-rated based on excise tax payments of the said importer.

The group was also concerned that the waiver or reduction of Performance Bond by the Department of Agriculture, takes away the authority from SRA, the agency imposing such requirement, which again is open to possible abuse of discretion.

Moreover, CONFED stated that the definition of “Consumers” under Definition of Terms (Section 2) covers end-users (manufacturers and industrials), retailers, repackers, wholesalers and traders, but does not include actual final consumers. This is in relation to Section 3 of the new Sugar Order (Eligible Participants), which requires applicant traders to be actually engaged in the “selling of physical sugar to the ‘Consumers’.”

“If a Producers’ Coop which is an SRA-accredited Trader only sells physical sugar to final consumers, and not to the other ‘consumers’, it may not qualify for import allocation. This limits the number of Producers’ cooperatives that may qualify,” CONFED further pointed out.

CONFED reiterated its earlier recommendation to SRA for a transparent, fair and equitable importation program, open to all SRA-accredited international sugar traders and with the participation of sugar producers on a pro-rata basis, for a total volume of 350,000 metric tons to come in two tranches (175,000 MT in July 2023 and another 175,000 MT in August), subject to evaluation of actual market conditions.

“While CONFED had hoped, as it continues to hope, that SRA sees fit to consider our recommendations in the spirit of collegiality and consultation, Sugar Order No. 6, Series of 2022-2023, falls short of the recommended transparency and fairness provisions that would ensure equitability for all stakeholders.

Be that as it may, CONFED further said in a statement it issued, that its member Associations and/or Cooperatives have expressed their interest in applying for import allocations subject to compliance with all legal requirements.

SAVE-SIM convenors Nelson Demegillo, Jun Dela Cruz, Wennie Sancho, Jovito Berdin and Alex Maloluy-on (l-r) during a press conference yesterday in Bacolod City*


The convenors of the Save the Sugar Industry Movement (SAVE-SIM) yesterday called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to seriously investigate the importation of sugar and also suggested that he appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who can assess and evaluate the problem confronting the sugar industry.

SAVE-SIM lead convenor Wennie Sancho also challenged the planters and sugar federations in the province to help SAVE-SIM send a strong message to the government that the 450,000 metric tons importation of refined sugar is an injustice to the small producers and workers in the sugar industry.

The sugar industry is in great danger right now. If this will continue and if nobody will protest to stop this unjustified action, the sugar industry will collapse, he said.

Sancho said the President should address the crucial problem of the sugar industry which the survival of the people of Negros depends on. About 60 percent of sugar produced in the Philippines comes from Negros.

“This is merely a reflection of the failure of the government to capacitate the agricultural sector. And most of all, we would like to blame the corrupt traders and corrupt government officials who are acting as facilitators in order to push through with this illegal activity or so called importation,” he said.

Sancho said the Sugar Regulatory Commission (SRA) should be consistent in the implementation of its regulatory powers. But the question is, who will regulate the regulators? He asked.

It is unfortunate that most of the officers of the SRA were also sugar producers. They are supposed to be more in the position to exercise value judgment when it come to the sugar industry. But on the contrary, they have acted against the interest of the small farmers, Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, and the workers of the sugar industry in general, Sancho said.

There are reports that even before the sugar order was signed, about 260 twenty-foot containers of smuggled sugar have already arrived in the port of Batangas. Why is this not being checked by SRA? He asked.

Sancho said he believes that the sugar order is a done deal. If this was already signed, they will manifest their indignation against this unfair, immoral, and unjustified imposition of sugar importation.

If the 450,000 MT of imported sugar will flood in the Philippines, the “tiempos muertos” (dead season) of the sugar workers will not only run for three months, but will last their whole lifetime, because the economic catastrophe that could occur would be unparalleled in scope and magnitude, he said.

Jun Dela Cruz, National Congress of Union in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines (NACUSIP) national director, said there are groups in Manila who are also protesting the 450,000 MT importation.

What is our stake in opposing this excessive importation? It’s the future of our families, Sancho said. However, they have no resources, so they are planning to hold a protest and are calling on the support of sugar planters and sugar federations.*

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March 2023

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